If you’re new to camping near the water, there’s a lot you need to know before you pitch your tent or park your RV. From tides to trailer accessibility, these tips will help you find the best spot on the shore. 


When you’re looking for the perfect camping spot by the water, you need to check that you’re high enough above the waterline, even when the tide comes in. You don’t want your camp to get washed away or to wake up soaking wet. 200 feet is a good distance to keep between yourself and the water’s edge, just to be safe. Also, be conscious of low spots. If you’re camping on a river’s edge within narrow canyons, seek higher ground in case bad weather moves in. Low spots are also colder and tend to collect water. 

Don’t forget that you’re not the only one who wants to enjoy the water. Other creatures will want to drink, and you may well be in their way. Be aware that raccoons, bears, and other wildlife will be on the prowl, and you’re better off not being at the water’s edge with them. 

Bugs are another thing to consider, especially mosquitoes. If they’re an issue, try finding somewhere where a breeze is stirring, and always take bug spray along as extra defense. 


If you’re camping with a trailer, you need to check the accessibility and ensure you don’t get stuck in too-soft or wet sand or have to walk for miles to get your gear.

There are a couple of ways to make sure you’ve got easy access to your trailer after you’ve found a spot near the water. The first thing you’ll need to do is level the trailer by using a level on its tongue to check if both sides are equally high. If not, use a trailer jack or leveling blocks to raise the lower side and even it out. You should also always park safely, directly on the campsite where you’re going to set up base before you uncouple the trailer. 

Lastly, secure the trailer to your car and to the ground. Using a hitch lock will secure the trailer to your car’s tow bar, and you can use a wheel clamp for extra security. Secure it to the ground with a boot lock, trailer wheel lock, or ground anchor, and you won’t have any issues with slipping and sliding.


You should have an evacuation plan ready every time you go camping, especially when you’re pitching your tent next to the water, as levels can rise quickly. If this means parking your vehicle and trailer a bit further away, rather do so. 

If you’re taking fishing gear, a boat, kayak, canoe, or any other equipment, ensure you can get it to safety quickly, too. But never put yourself in danger trying to do so. 


Natural barriers are a major advantage because they provide much-needed protection against the elements. When you’re searching for somewhere to set up camp, avoid areas that have signs of erosion, as this can indicate a recent flood or high watermark. 

Make a point of setting up camp near boulders and established vegetation. Rocks, treelines, and thicker vegetation will create a buffer for your campsite and can reduce the impact of the wind. The more sheltered your spot, the more you can enjoy your water view without feeling battered by the elements. 


You need to know how the water body you’re camping near is going to behave. Research potential flood patterns, tides, and water levels before you leave on your trip, and remember that camping guides, local authorities, and park rangers may have valuable information about your chosen campsite. 


If you’re going to camp by the water, it’s up to you to make sure that your campsite isn’t going to negatively impact the environment and that it’s legal for you to be there. There are regulations governing not just your camping activities but your fishing, boating, and kayaking, too. Kayak Guru’s guide to USA kayaking rules and regulations is an excellent resource if you’re planning to spend time out on the water.

These are your site options:

  • Designated and Regulated Camping

If you’re camping in an area popular with other people, you may have to choose from designated campsites. Plus, you may need a reservation and/or permit and be limited to staying at the site for a specific period of time. 

If you need reservations or permits, you’ll usually have to get them online or at a ranger station, and you should check to see where and how. If you’re on a multi-day trip, you’ll need to plan ahead and stick to your itinerary. Make sure that you’re on schedule and only stay at the site for the days you’ve booked or have a permit for. 

  • Remote Camping

While dry camping is one way to really get up close and personal with nature, camping in out-of-the-way areas is another great option. This type of camping doesn’t require a designated site, it’s just a spot you pick out in the wild. However, you do need to ensure that you don’t leave any traces of your activities behind.

Avoid creating lasting vegetative disturbances by foregoing campfires, and make sure you pack all your trash when you go. 

  • Unregulated Camping

In areas where there are no regulations about camping and you can simply pitch your tent where you please, do your best to make sure your campsite meets the following requirements:

  • There are no bushes or other vegetation that you’ll interfere with, or that will hinder your camping. 
  • You can keep to the camping setback rule, which states that you’re at least 200 feet, or 70 adult paces, away from other campsites, trails, and water. 
  • The space is large enough for your whole group to camp comfortably together. 
  • The campsite is located on bare soil, gravel, rock, or another solid surface.


Regardless of whether you’re camping on the shoreline of a lake, the beach, or a river’s edge in a  canyon, always put your safety first. These tips will help you select a spot that’s safe but still offers a great vantage point, ensuring your waterside camping adventure is memorable for all the right reasons.